Tea Time

I’ve decided to end the whole thing about the sports award. Well, sort of.

You see, I’m willing to believe that Mr. Burch was not sidelined for public criticism of the Government. I’m willing to accept that the issue was handled horribly by the Government, so horribly that it left it open for interpretation. I can accept that.

But my whole thing though is that if that is the case, and truly I would sooner believe that than government persecution of an athlete, then why hasn’t the Government just come out and calmly explained the whole situation? How come foresight wasn’t used to predict how this thing would be percieved? Why was the whole thing compounded by spin and not frankness?

It shouldn’t be up to the individual citizen to go about playing detective work to get an idea of what really happened. And quite frankly very few citizens are actually going to go and do that. And that really is the message I’ve been trying to get across to the Party in my criticism of this. Perhaps my approach, of trying to provoke openness wasn’t the best one, but honestly, I’m tired of seeing all these failures to anticipate fallout, of stumbling from one avoidable mishap to the next.

We have the technology now to put press releases right into the public domain where people can read them verbatim rather than read what the media filters. Of course we should still employ critical thought with these, but it would help to make the media more accountable. And the Government for that.

Having said all that, bearing in mind my own opinion of what really happened (which is not as sinister as it appears), even what I think probably happened should not have happened, and it exposes some problems that the Party has yet to address adequately.

One of them is the growing perception that the Party is intolerant of criticism, any criticism, and that people will be punished for doing so. I personally continue to believe that is not the case, but that is certainly the growing perception. And sometimes thats all is needed, especially in a society that has such fresh memories of such repercussions.

Another major problem of the Party so far is in responding to these crises. I am no fan of spin, but I really am shocked at the poor disaster management responses to many of these problems. Sure, with modern technology there are things you are not going to be able to control. But this only strengthens the need to be honest, open and willing to engage. Ideally we should be doing that anyway, but with so many uncontrollable variables today its even more important to just tell the truth. Sometimes the truth is more bizarre than the fiction, but if we want to develop political maturity, the open, frankly honest truth is the only way forward for our people.

One key problem that will increase its threat to the Party is the growing frustration with its moving on grassroots concerns. Grassroots supporters will never vote UBP, and they will continue to vote PLP as long as the choice is between them and the UBP. But this should not be looked at as a mandate to govern, its more of a win by default. Small, apparently trivial things, like the sports award, they can have long lasting consequences, way beyond what one might originally predict. The risk is in the development of a perfect storm situation, where one small thing is enough to trigger a cascade effect leading to system failure. With the economic crisis the potential for a perfect storm increases, and so ever greater care must be taken to avoid mishaps like the recent one.

So with that, I’m willing to take a tea break from this fiasco. I hope this type of mishap doesn’t happen again.

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17 thoughts on “Tea Time

  1. Jonathan,

    As worldy as you would like to appear, there is so much that yo don’t know. It is unfortunate that you, like 95% of Bermudians have based your opinion of the Sports Award, on what you have read in the Royal Gazzete. As I said on Everest’s show recently, if Bermudians aren’t aware of the purpose of the Royal Gazette/Mid Ocean News is at this point in the history of the Bermuda Press Holdings Ltd., they never will be.

    I’m just disappointed that you have based all of your decisions/opinions of the Sports Award on what you read on-line in the Royal Gazette. Have you forgotten so quickly how they use your posts for front page stories?

  2. Hi Laverne,

    The thing that I’m trying to convey here is that fine, we know the RG is biased and skews things. Fair enough. But they are the only news source, and until the Government actually publishes its press releases online where everyone can see them, or until the Party uses its website (where it cannot be filtered) to set the record straight, what do you expect people to do? We aren’t going to just keep taking people’s word on these things, not when there are so many constantly being shoved in our faces. I think you might be surpised about how much I’ve known about the behind the scenes stuff involved here, but the point is why isn’t it coming out officially? I cannot just go about quoting ‘sources’ without people thinking I’m making things up here. Nor is it in my interest to let it rip so to speak. My interest was/is in making sure these mistakes don’t happen again, and when they do that we minimise the problem with that great antidote to speculation called ‘the truth’.

    The vast majority of the populace is dependent on the RG. As suspicious as people may be of it stuff eventually seeps in. We need to counter it. I am not in the position to do so, but I am in a position to try to demonstrate why it needs to be countered.

  3. Starling…just cause tha sports awards wasnt a clear cut case of reprisal base on a citizen using their freedom os speech….lets b very clear that this system of government and its current administrators are not innocent of breaking other bermudians constitutional rights. Too bad the papers dont print the real stories

  4. universal health care for all bermudians under a certain income level based on the new hip program for old people…..we the people who have to work to pay for all the goodies the old folks r gettin should be able to benifit from universal healthcare.

  5. the opposition has failed to get answers from this administration…the system is broken with no chance of reform…time for royal commission on auditors report….also time for a no confidence vote in this system time to disolve parliment and call for a general election and have the govenor run the country

  6. I think it’s helpful to take a step back, and understand how it is such a potentially ‘non story’ blew up.

    1. The events themselves: the minister decided he knew better than the nominating committee, as is his right, but not his perogative. Let’s assume for a moment that his decision had absolutely nothing to do with Burch’s comments, and was completely down to the minister deciding that, in the face of all the work of those qualified people appointed to the committee, he wanted to decide, so end of. This in of itself bugs me, because it is indicative a larger problem, which I’ll get onto – that the current PLP leadership make decisions themselves, in isolation of their electorate.

    2. The fallout: okay so the big evil nasty racist Royal Gazette publishes a story (using quotes and input from the involved parties, except for the minister in question, because he refused to talk to them – clever) which claims the reason that this unprecedented switch was made was political, not based on sporting achievement. As the PLP do you:
    a) Respond quickly with a unified message – the final decision comes from the minister, and he thanks the nominating committee for all of their hard work, and that as proud as he was of the olympian’s success, he feels that he was justified in over-riding their decision, and explain why.
    Or b)
    Keep quiet for long enough to let it fester a bit. Then send out the minister, angry as hell, stomping his feet saying that he is the damn authourity, and he saw the damn world champion title on James’ resume, and that’s good enough for him. And make sure the speech he gives makes it pretty clear that he doesn’t appreciate what it actually means to be world champion in that particular, very very small sport (racquets, not squash). At the same time, send out your ridiculously antagonistic PLP blog/progressive mind editor as the only real word on the web. And have his message be: criticising the minister’s decision is exactly the same thing as criticising James Stout’s achievements, and if you do that you’re clearly stupid. Thereby hoping that people would just be like, “oh yeah, he’s right, James is cool, we shouldn’t worry about how the decision was made, or what that signifies. We’re all just sheep anyway.” It comes from the Karl Rove/Dr. Brown school of politics – if you’re not with us, you’re a terrorist/racist. If you disagree with us, you’re unpatriotic. If you question our decisions, you’re anti-Bermudian. And then extend this sentiment to even party members, and then send out your resident voice/other antagonist to basically say that by not toe-ing the party line, he’s should resign as a member.

    Oh and having chosen b) – then get really angry about why people are upset, put hands over ears, yell loudly and harp on about the racist gazette.

    3. The overall trend: Unfortunately on way too many occasions our current cabinet have acted in ways that resemble a big middle finger to those that question them. In fact outright hostility and attempts to ostracise those with different viewpoints (or deport, if the capability exists). Given this background (and I’m sorry Laverne, but you know precisely what we’re talking about, don’t act dumb – we had to deceive you, do you know who I am, education minister switcharoo – there are loads of examples) at some point it has to drop for the PLP leadership that they could well do with a new PR approach. Instead of being the spikey – f*ck you I’m going to do this my way because I’m so damn qualified to do it, perhaps its time for an approach that would make the rest of the country more comfortable with their leaders. When I have to explain some of the thigns that go on in Bermudian politics to other democratic citizens, they cannot fathom how those same people are not indicted, no matter re-elected. If you want the source of Bermudians damaging trait of self-entitlement, look no further than the top of the pile. They’re entitled to govern however they damn well want to. And if you don’t agree, you’re racist.

  7. Jonny,

    Here’s a quote from you: “Grassroots supporters will never vote UBP, and they will continue to vote PLP as long as the choice is between them and the UBP.”
    I agree that grassroot PLP supporters will never vote UBP, but have you ever thought that they simply won’t vote at all if they are unsatisfied with the PLP?

    On another note, I mean seriously, no one denies that the sports minister made a unilateral decision to deny burch the award and give it to someone else after Burch had been nominated by the committe. That in and of itself can not be spun because it is a fact. That is indeed what everyone is so hyped about.

  8. Hi Justin, Yes, I do agree with your argument that some PLP supporters may indeed just give up on politics altogether and simply not vote. I was unable to get the stats from the last election, but I do believe that if one can access them we would see a significant rise in spoiled ballots. Ultimately I do feel that we would see a trend of growing apathy amongst grassroots PLP supporters, which may actually cause UBP victories by default.

  9. Just as a follow up on public perception – another opportunity presents itself to the PLP with the recent auditor general report. Again, assuming that you’re the PLP leadership and you know that everything you’ve done is above board, and that you maintain records within your civil service which are reliable, when given a damaging and in your view biased audit do you:

    1) Thank the AG for his scrutiny, and say that you welcome the questions as particularly in these economic times you understand the importance of fiscal management, in fact you appreciate his over-zealouness in this area. You will be working closely with him to resolve the issues he has raised, and look forward to getting your audit rating back to a sufficient level.
    or
    2) Attack the AG, claim that he is anti-government, insinuate he is politically motivated, cherry pick a few of his complaitns and gloss over them, and then demand the governor remove him from office.

    Now I know which would endear me more to the PLP. The current leadership seem to feel victimised by everyone, and once again respond with a big f*ck you to anyone who dare question them. If you’ve nothing to hide, why the worry?

  10. Well – nothing changes I guess.

    1. The RG has it wrong.
    2. On another thread – the AG has it wrong.

    But that apart – the Government has it right. As always.

    Truly amazing.

  11. Well, I don’t think you can say that Government has it right either. Its more like they’re all partially right and wrong at the same time. Pity though, it would be nice if at least one out of three was in the right…

  12. I think it boils down to the fact that we can all agree that something is amiss. The Constitution provides avenues to travel without being empieded. I think we need to check the compass course again and really check the deviation and variation.

    That way we might be able to actually locate our real position and what surrounds us.

  13. Hi Again Jonathan,

    I just checked the Government’s website and I do see some press releases that have been sent to the media. I will check to see if they are all posted there on a daily basis. I personally think it would be inappropriate for the PLP to post Government releases on their website. Press releases are meant for the media, not political parties.

    On another note, Roy Allen Burch’s father was HOTT 107 live and one thing he did say was that his son never qualified for the Olympics, but because he had worked so hard and was the only Bermudian male in the sport at the time, “they” and I guess he means the Olympic Committee, allowed him to compete.
    I have no doubt that he is a talented athlete and should be encouraged to continue on, but I do believe had this whole thing not erupted as it had, few Bermudians would have known who Roy Allen Burch is, just as we didn’t know who James Stout was. I’ll leave it at that.

    By the way, I don’t think that Clarence Hill was ever named as the Athlete of the Year or was given much recognition for his accomplishments, although he is the only Bermudian that has won an Olympic medal. Check the Royal Gazette on that one and see how he was treated and what people had to say about his accomplishments (pre-1998).

  14. @ Laverne Furbert – Re: Clarence Hill – My understanding is that when awards came about (there wasn’t an equivalent when he won – 76 I believe?) he was no longer acting in a way befitting of such awards. Given that our top sportsmen are supposed to be role models, I think perhaps it’s understandable that he was over-looked? A bit like Pete Rose and the baseball hall of fame?

    Why do you think he was never honoured?

  15. Laverne, as LiF says, there was no such award when Clarence Hill was on the top of his game. By the time there was his behavior was hardly exemplary (to be polite) – you only have to look back a few months to see the stink that was raised over Michael Phelps taking a hit from a bong – among other things people were making the point that the video was made after the Olympics – otherwise there would have been serious discussion as to whether or not he should be stripped of his medals.

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